Nov 29

Decanter: Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck for sale

Tag: Weingütersigi.hiss @ 21:27

by Richard Woodard- French drinks group Rémy Cointreau has put its Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck Piper-Heidsieck Champagne brands up for sale in a deal which could raise as much as €450m.

The news has provoked intense speculation over who will acquire the brands, with Diageo and Pernod Ricard named as possible bidders – although analysts believe a private equity group is the most likely buyer.

The company has commissioned Crédit Agricole-CIB to begin the sale process by inviting bids after growing impatient with its Champagne business’s inability to turn a profit.

It is understood that Piper has never been profitable in the 20 years that Rémy Cointreau has owned it, in stark contrast to the money-making power of the company’s Rémy Martin Cognac business.

Piper president Anne-Charlotte Amory has spent the past few years trying to turn the business around, achieving a 10-12% EBIT (earnings before income tax) margin in the year to March 2008 – before seeing that wiped out by the economic downturn.

Sales dropped to 6.9m bottles in the year to March 2010 – of which Piper accounted for 5.6m and Charles 0.8m bottles.

Cost-cutting measures have included the announcement of 45 job losses – one quarter of the workforce – in February this year, which prompted strike action at the company’s headquarters on the outskirts of Reims.

The company said: ‘The Rémy Cointreau Group announces that it has given a mandate to Crédit Agricole-CIB to commence a competitive bid process for the possible sale of its Champagne division comprising, notably, the Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck brands.

‘The conclusion of a sale agreement will remain subject to the necessary information disclosure, consultation and authorisation procedures, in accordance with current regulations.’

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